Aquaponics Is Gaining Popularity As More People Grow Plants Using Fish Poop

When John Bowskill threw caution to the wind, moved to Western Australia’s southwest, and started growing fresh produce with fish poo, his friends were skeptical.

“Some of them thought I was a little bit crazy choosing an alternate kind of lifestyle,” says the former veterinarian and computer programmer.

But, with rising uncertainties about the future of the Earth’s climate, global food supplies, and the advent of COVID-19, Mr. Bowskill says his decision has now started to make more sense to his detractors.

“It was amazing after COVID hit, how lots of people sent me messages during that sort of panic period, saying ‘I thought you were a little bit crazy but now I’m realizing what a great idea you had.”

Mr. Bowskill runs an aquaponics farm in Witchcliffe, where fresh produce is grown on floating rafts and fertilized with live fish waste.

While his system is among the biggest aquaponics operations in Western Australia, it is still a relatively small set-up.

His greenhouse produces enough to supply fresh produce and fish to Mr. Bowskill and his extended family who live on the shared farm, and he sells the remainder at the Margaret River Farmers’ Market.

“We wanted something that would help us in perhaps a different or maybe even a more difficult future,” he says.

Mr. Bowskill says his aquaponics set-up is extremely productive and low waste: One grow bed has the capacity to produce up to 252 lettuces a week, and the relatively small amount of fresh water needed to top up the system is provided by rainwater tanks on the property.

A Self-Sufficient Future

Sustainable aquaculture expert Professor Ravi Fotedar from Curtin University says the dual shadows cast by climate change and the COVID pandemic have some people concerned about securing their own food supply.

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